The banging and clattering of builders hard at work could not be a more welcome sound at a stunning Fenland church held in high regard by royalty.

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Prince Charles has a serious soft spot for Walpole St Peter’s parish church and it is thanks in part to his patronage that vital the repairs are finally under way.

A £220,000 appeal to replace the chancel roof was launched last year and the prince added his support, making a “generous donation” to the cause.

Now parishioners’ determination is paying-off and the end of an 18-month fund-raising drive is at last in sight.

The chancel – last repaired around 200 years ago – was sealed off when the experts moved in and extensive work is also needed on the north aisle roof.

But, being Christmas time, it is business as usual at the church, which attracts hundreds of visitors each year.

Services and special events are going ahead as planned over the festive period, not least a hand-crafted Advent display created by a team of volunteers and children from the village school.

Work on the roof began in late September and is due to be completed by the end of February, when a well-deserved celebration is planned.

A number of grants have been made towards the cost of the repairs, but the community has also needed to rally round to get the project off the ground.

Parishioners have raised about £37,000 of the money themselves through various events, including concerts and a barbecue, and a further £15,000 must still be found to see the work completed.

Churchwarden Michael Anstey said fund-raising activities would continue in the new year to help them reach their final target.

“The work on the church is going very well so far,” he added.

Hours of effort have also gone into the Advent display, which includes pine cone garlands and dozens of angels made by pupils of all ages during a week-long project at Anthony Curton Primary School.

“We did a display for Advent last year and it proved very popular,” said organiser Marion Sudbury.

“The children have made some wonderful angels.

“People are always welcome to come and see the church, it’s a truly beautiful building.”

The church has been described as the Queen of Marshland because of its stunning architecture and features, with its annual flower festival attracting hundreds of visitors in itself.

St Peter’s has a long history of royal patronage and is said to be the Prince of Wales’s favourite church.

While he was Prince of Wales, the future Edward VII contributed to the replacement of church windows and his successor, who was to become George V, planted an oak tree in the churchyard in 1909.

Prince Charles has been the most frequent royal visitor over the years, often visiting privately, and he previously contributed to the repair and replacement of the organ.

In 2000, the prince planted an oak tree, opposite the bell tower on the south side of the church, to mark the Millennium.

A Christingle service will be held at the church from 6pm on Wednesday followed by a carol service at 6.30pm on Sunday, when punch and mince pies will be served.

Midnight Mass will be held from 11.30pm on Christmas Eve.

Visitors are welcome to view the Advent display daily from 10am to dusk.

Find out more about the church and the roof appeal at www.stpeterschurchwalpole.org.uk.

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